In February 1988, I founded Kjaer Global. My mission then was to inspire and empower people with design inspiration. Over time we developed a Trend Management Toolkit, drawing on creativity and design thinking, to help businesses navigate the future. Now, 30 years later creativity has become a crucial leadership skill.
The Learning Organisation
Recently I travelled across Asia to deliver a series of keynotes at various conferences and universities on future topics such as: Tomorrow’s Female Leadership, Innovating in the Age of Disruption and The Learning Organisation. One theme united all topics: Our urgent need for a new mindset to solve the challenges ahead.
We know that increased complexity is a major challenge for individuals, businesses and society. Not surprisingly, creativity is now rated a top leadership skill to cope with the data deluge and disruption, for it’s the catalyst that will enable leaders to build both future strategies and organisational resilience. But the question is: where do we look for inspiration?
Look North for Inspiration
Scandinavia is a good place to start. Its nations champion equality and talent development – here, almost as many women as men are working and the gender pay-gap is closing. The concept of ‘arbejdsglæde’ (joy of work), along with the fact that almost 60% of people participate in some sort of lifelong learning scheme could explain why the Nordics fare high in global innovation indexes. They also rank high in global wellbeing indexes.
Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that former Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Rebien Sørensen was vote the world’s best-performing CEO two consecutive years (2015 and 2016) by Harvard Business Review. What stands out is his modest leadership style – typical in Denmark and the other Nordics, much less so in other parts of the globe.
Rethink your Why
Another quality set to define future leadership is meaningful engagement and a purpose beyond pure profit. Every CEO needs to ask themselves why people should work for them, engage with their company or buy into their products and services. If they can’t answer the question honestly, there’s a problem. Indeed, The Meaningful Brand Index (MBI) 2017 has found that people wouldn’t care if 74% of current brands disappeared. Top 10 MBI 2017 brands are Google, PayPal, WhatsApp, YouTube, Samsung, Mercedes Benz, Nivea, Microsoft, IKEA and Lego.
This league table begs the question: How do tomorrow businesses tap into innovation models that cultivate the interests of all stakeholders? We all have access to information, but increasingly the right tools for analysis and application – and the right level of connection with our community – will define performance. It’s not just about what we sell, but about what we stand for.
The 4P Business Model
New parameters are needed to navigate value in the 21st century. We need to look beyond profit and find a much wider definition of prosperity to remain relevant. The Kjaer Global 4P business model is just such a framework, balancing profit with purpose. Tomorrow’s successful organisations will have a positive impact on people and planet, will enrich their communities, and will cultivate an inclusive bottom-line.
Kjaer Global’s Trend Atlas for 2030 is a distillation of influential drivers across multiple societal dimensions – scientific, social, emotional and spiritual spheres – scanned in a 4P context. This strategic map contains the building blocks of the future, an atlas of trends already impacting people, planet, businesses and society. All are key to understanding tomorrow’s risk and opportunities. The trends and drivers are all interconnected and profoundly impact on leadership, learning, innovation and culture.
Connecting the Dots
The Fast Company article Why Purpose-Driven Companies Are Often More Successful (2015) highlighted that: “A purpose mobilises people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will”. This is why the 4P outlook links the drivers of change with values; doing this facilitates a much deeper understanding of potential future scenarios. You might already have adapted to some of these drivers of change, but any great leader recognises the need for ongoing observation and monitoring of trends. That way, your organisation prepares for changes and disruptions, rather than reacting to them.
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Towards an Inclusive Economy
The Leadership Trend Compass projects core drivers in a 5-10 year perspective. Looking at people, our planet and performance in a current context helps us understand how to better prepare for a purpose-driven business agenda. To instill a 4P outlook, organisations need to carefully observe how trends will impact their ecosystem and then plan accordingly. Here is how you can start preparing for your journey into the future:
1. Be Prepared for the Liquid Workforce: An inclusive, global and outward-facing mindset defines tomorrow’s people. Promoting lifelong learning and creativity is key to nurturing a culture of innovation, and this is also the way to foster the agility needed in a fast-changing business landscape.
2. Build Caring Ecosystems: A caring business is lead by vision and foresight – cultivating a positive legacy. No matter the size of your organisation, make it a great workplace. The empathic leader knows that meaningful work and opportunities for self-development boost growth.
3. Make Purpose your Mantra: Successful leaders don’t just want to be the ‘best in the world’; they also want to be ‘best for the world’. This means they will nurture a mindful and emotionally intelligent organisation, characterised by passion and a purpose-driven agenda to match.
4. Engage in Diversity to Drive Performance: Emerging technology is enabling new business models, experiences and hyper-personalised services. A leader’s capacity for cultivating a ‘diversity of ideas’, thoughts and experiences will drive fresh thinking and innovation.
Purpose Boosts Performance
The World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Survey (2017) found that young people view work as a key part of life – that is, they view work as an integral function and not as a binary opposite of ‘life’. A key characteristic of job satisfaction among youth was “a sense of purpose”. Translated into leadership goals, Intuit CEO Brad Smith sums up cleverly what’s needed: “A leader’s job is not to put greatness into people, but to recognize that it already exists, and to create the environment where that greatness can emerge and grow”.
Performance and purpose go hand in hand. The book Corporate Culture and Performance by John Kotter and James Heskett (2011) presented business cases and evidence that, over a decade-long period, purposeful, value-driven companies outperformed their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12.
So, in Conclusion
It’s important to note that the emphatic individual is particular well equipped in a purpose-driven economy, as AI and technology will create an increased demand for interpersonal skills that are uniquely human – coincidentally, a domain in which women consistently demonstrate an edge. Now and in the future, those who lead with emotional intelligence, and actively build teams that play to their strengths, will be better positioned to stay ahead in the digital economy.
Meaningful engagement will drive high-performance and innovation because, when businesses and leaders imagine the future together, then all stakeholders share a purpose. That sense of shared purpose is critical in helping organisations prepare for change by creating collective value that inspires devotion and builds resilience.
Kjaer Academy exercise: Rate the trends in your context. Download Trend Index PDF
Creativity is what keeps organisations ahead
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